CAPITOL HILL - U.S. President Barack Obama should "start over" and send a second, new request to Congress seeking formal authorization for the use of American-led military force against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, a top congressional Republican said Tuesday.
John Boehner, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, joined other critics who say the brutal fighters’ gains in the Iraqi city of Ramadi over the last few days prove the Obama administration needs a new, overarching approach to defeat them.
"Hope is not a strategy," Boehner said.
The authorization request that the president submitted in February would give the president even less authority than he currently has to fight the militants, Boehner said. "This is why the president frankly should withdraw the authorization of use of military force and start over," he said of the AUMF.
Asked if Congress should not assume its constitutional responsibility to declare war, Boehner said there can only be one commander-in-chief at a time, and that is the president.
At the daily White House briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest reacted angrily to Boehner’s remarks, saying the president and White House staff had had dozens of meetings with lawmakers to work out the language of the AUMF the president sent to Congress.
Earnest said Boehner is simply looking for excuses not to act.
"At some point, it has to be the responsibility of the Speaker of the House to do his job and for members of Congress to do their job. And we have not seen members of Congress, and we certainly have not seen the Speaker of the House do his job when it comes to this specific matter," Earnest said said.
Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was "deeply disappointed" that Boehner "abdicated responsibility" for the war authorization.
"The reality is that we wait only for the courage to act, and that is not something that can be delivered by pouch from the White House," Schiff said. "At the end of the day, it is the Congress that will suffer from its apathy."
Sparring over request
Some lawmakers have criticized the president’s draft war authorization, saying, like Boehner, that it gives the chief executive insufficient power to wage war against the Islamic State.
Others say it gives too much leeway to get U.S. troops deeply involved in another war in the Middle East.
Analysts say Congress appears reluctant to set a framework for the operations in Iraq and Syria, facing an American public that is worried about the Islamic State but also weary from more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.